Friday, 28 October 2011

Freewheelin’ in India - Day 17: Humps, Lumps and Bumps

I awoke at 5.30am feeling like I’d survived ’nam, whilst cursing any religion that starts worship before midday, as the racket emanating from the nearby celebrations had either started up again, or failed to stop. I couldn’t tell.

We went for breakfast at a place called ‘Sun and Moon’, I could only stomach some dry toast and mango juice as I sat watching large tortoises roam around our table eating parts of plants. Following that, we strolled the local bazaars in the tiny town, which was so much more laid back than most of the other places we’d visited.

We booked our next journey, onto Udiapur via Ajmer at a local travel agent, then took a brief nap, as doing next to nothing during the hottest part of the day had still left me feeling weak. We hung outside our room a while, and Sarah got chatting to a fifty-something year old British Jew named John, who looked like a slightly decrepit 80’s Bob Dylan, and was riding his motorbike across India with his Thai bride. He was comedy gold to say the least, pretty much a real life version of Steve Coogan’s character from Saxondale, a proper ‘been there/done that’ type that clearly loved to talk about himself. He was literally that person I adore from the show; “In ’86 when I was on the road with blah blah, blah blah blah happened, not like today, things were different back then, blah blah blah”. I could hear Sarah getting bored whilst I threw on some clothes, then stepped outside just in time to defend London, which he was slagging off, explaining how much I loved my city and was looking forward to returning there after our trip. He looked at me saying, “You’ll have to join us for a toke later, you look the type”, which cracked me up, this dude was too good to be true, I couldn’t wait to write about him.

We were collected at around 4.30pm by two young boys who walked with us for a few minutes until we reached two camels who would be carrying us into the desert to see the sunset once again.

The young boy walking with me was ambling along staring at the music player on his phone, leaving me trailing Sarah by about thirty metres as I was reminded why I wasn’t that keen to ride a camel again. The Crush! I don’t think when God created man, he intended him to go riding camels, painfully ending any chance of reproduction. Sarah looked back at me uncomfortably as her teenage guide had decided to jump up with her, and called something back to me about getting ‘rubbed up’. I didn’t really dig the sight of my lover being rode from behind by this kid from my long distance viewpoint, so I got the attention of my boy, and explained that she was my girlfriend, and I didn’t want to see anyone else riding with her. He called to his friend who jumped straight down, seemingly leaving Sarah relieved.

After nearly an hours trek into the desert, we arrived at a peak which dropped down into a dune. There were a load of gorgeous, grubby little kids waiting, whom I grabbed (literally) for a few snaps, and gave some money to. There were also some musicians playing these strange handmade stringed instruments that I didn’t catch the name of. One kid tried to sell me his for 1000 rupees, but I declined due to my lack of space, and his inflated price.

Soon after watching the pinky redness of our beloved Sun drop off the edge of the Earth, we jumped back on our not-so-trusty not-so-steed’s in order to head back. The two boys were now riding one in front, whilst Sarah and I took the other and followed. I didn’t feel steady at all which wasn’t good, let alone having to endure the rushes of pain through my scrotum with every bump of the camel’s steps, so when the kid whipped the camel to ride faster, I called forward telling them to keep it slow. I didn’t enjoy seeing the camel get whipped, nor did I want to fall off, yet that is exactly what happened next.

It was getting dark as I saw that loathed whip rise up, and come down on the camel in front. Almost simultaneously our camel quick-stepped straight into a piece of barbed wire that was laying in the path, and its leg went, collapsing it sideways like a set of dominos. I could see it happening in slow motion, thinking ‘my leg is going to break’ as it’s body crashed towards me and the floor. I managed to pull away so that only my ankle took a blow, and sat up asking if Sarah was ok before shouting madly at the kids for not listening to my earlier warning. Sarah had fallen on some rocks, cutting and bruising her left thigh and my ankle was cut and swollen, but luckily we were both ok. We had to begrudgingly get back on the other camel for the remainder of the journey, and we were let down at some restaurant that was probably owned by somebody the kids knew, who asked what happened. I explained, then got up to leave, and the guy asked “What about payment?” I replied “You think I’m going to pay for this shit?” before Sarah and I put our arms around each other and hobbled off into the distance like a battered Bonnie and Clyde.

We went back to our hotel room to wash off the blood, dirt and camel hair before going back to the Rainbow Restaurant. I was still a little food weary after the previous day’s death, struggling to eat my garlic naan and chips as Sarah smashed up a whole load of falafel and hummus beside me, now laughing over our earlier ‘brush with crush’ before heading back to relax. Sarah wasn’t that keen on hanging out with John, but I really wanted to because a) smoking with strangers is the best way to make friends, and b) I love Saxondale.

He’d just finished playing some distorted number on his guitar, whilst a friend and his seemingly uninterested wife sat nearby on the balcony as we called up saying we’d come and join them. After a while of John speaking for the five of us, he rolled a shy, small skinned hash joint, then proceeded to ‘Bogart’ the hell out of it whilst relaying a number of stories all at the same time, none of which he ever finished. He covered a lot of interesting topics; Haarp and the ability to control and create weather patterns which can cause ‘natural disasters’ (seriously look it up), the on-going Chinese/Tibetan conflict, drug smuggling, our government putting fluoride in the water supply to relax and dumb-down the nation. All of these were interwoven with half-told anecdotes that left you feeling both more informed, yet knowing less than when you started. He was brimming with frustration and you could tell that the evils of the world had got the better of him, and he was ready to kill, literally, to escape the constant lies we’ve been fed from all sides from the word ‘GO’. I couldn’t blame him, and was in some ways quite fond of this broken fighter, mercenary jewel dealer who clearly wanted to tell the world to go and fuck itself.
He spoke to his friend James about ideas for riding around filming the following day, I enquired as to what they’d be shooting and John looked me straight in the eye and replied “Born To Be Wild on Sitar”. “Cool”, I answered back, chuckling inside. Truly too good to be true. He then asked James for his opinion on whether what he was playing earlier sounded good, saying “Be honest, I don’t mind”, but when James pointed out that ‘Shine on you Crazy Diamond’ sounded a bit funny and wrongly distorted, he replied clearly bothered, saying “Yeah, it was meant to sound like that”. Poor James, he’d have been great to talk to if it wasn’t for the more obnoxious version of himself that he was hanging out with.

After an hour or so we wished them farewell, and we retired to our pink-walled room to make love-hearts burst from all four corners as we floated together like lovebirds on St. Valentine’s Day.

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